When it comes to couples who have been together 32 years, it's easy enough to say they have a habit of finishing each other's sentences. But with the television writing-producing team of Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov -- here as judges of Filmfest's Aspen Shortsfest 2013 -- they have a habit of finishing each other's paragraphs.
So it goes with Schneider and Frolov, whose resume includes Northern Exposure, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire, with King -- a racial drama set in the Florida Panhandle in the 1960s -- the next on the docket as a pilot for AMC. In Aspen for the first time, there is no way to interview with them unless you let them speak as one.
How did you get started as a writing-producing team?
We had separate careers and were hired by Ken Johnson to work on Alien Nation. We had attempted to write a script together in the 1980s. It was tough at first because we had to find an M.O. At first we divided up the script and wrote different parts. But that didn't work very well. We ended up writing every scene together.
With Northern Exposure, you finally became show-runners. How was that different?
It was great. You get to expand and learn a lot. When you're executive producing you're doing everything -- casting, editing, managing personalities. It was all about learning. We were blessed by great mentors like Josh Brand and John Falsing. David Chase [creator of The Sopranos] was producing the show the last two years.
And Chase brought you onto The Sopranos the last two years.
He let us on the set of the shows we wrote. It was a real luxury. It helped a lot. You hear a cadence. The way an actor forms dialogue. You can see the quirks of a person. It also helps in terms of story, like when the romance isn't working. It's a living process and you're constantly adjusting. There's never enough time.
You started on network television with Northern Exposure. Then you went to cable with much more freedom. Did it feel like the gloves were off?
We loved Northern Exposure and never felt hampered. The Sopranos called for certain language, violence. You face artistic choices -- which way will have the most emotional impact?
You also did Boardwalk Empire about gangsters in Atlantic City during Prohibition.
It's based on real people. We did a lot of research. We read books from the period. We had a linguistics expert because the vocabulary was a little different.
Is it different now than earlier in your careers?
As long as we've been in the business it's been changing. Cable came in, DVR. It keeps changing.
King, a pilot for AMC. [Former Florida Congressman] Joe Scarborough, [now Morning Joe on MSNBC] and we have the same agent. It's the story of a Congressman named King in the Florida Panhandle in the 1960s, of how he changes as the country changes. It's amazing how little people remember about that time. It was 50 years ago -- 50 years ago. The n-word was still used on the Senate floor by Strom Thurmond.
How do you come up with your stories?
It's about the material and the subject matter. But you're always looking at your market, at your brand. We try to expand ourselves, our imagination. We're not just treading water. We love these things.